Smoke from Western wildfires might be more noticeable in Nebraska on Wednesday, and the air quality could possibly be affected in the western two-thirds of the state.
The National Weather Service is advising residents in south-central and western Nebraska to pay attention to air quality Wednesday in case the wildfire smoke gets thick enough to cause respiratory issues.
Phil Beda, meteorologist for the weather service in Hastings, said an arriving cold front could contribute to a greater concentration of smoke at ground level Wednesday. He cautioned that there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding whether smoke will be a problem in Nebraska but said the weather service wanted to provide a heads-up.
If smoke is an problem, it will be in the morning and afternoon, and then clear away, he said.
The smoke has been high in the atmosphere over Nebraska, about 10,000 feet above the surface, which is why it hasn’t been a health concern thus far, said weather service meteorologist Van DeWald. Even on Wednesday, DeWald said he didn’t expect to see health effects in Omaha.
“The only impact for us has been that it’s giving us a hazy sky and some colorful sunrises and sunsets,” he said.
According to Beda, here’s how the cold front might contribute to a smoky Wednesday in parts of Nebraska: Cold air is denser than warm air, so when the cold front arrives, it will sink to the ground and bring with it particles of smoke that are high up. How much smoke and how close to the ground it gets remain to be seen, he said.
Beda and DeWald said there are a couple of reasons the Omaha metro area is less likely to be affected. Omaha sits at lower elevation than central and western Nebraska, so smoke would have to drop farther to reach the ground, and Omaha is farther from the fires.